Giant on the move
Continuing our look at the golden moments from the Games, Sophie Hardach tells us what it was like watching the heart-wrenching story of weightlifter Matthias Steiner unfold.
After covering 14 Olympic weightlifting competitions, I sat down for the super-heavyweight contest knowing that it would be the most spectacular of them all. In the previous contests, I had seen hulking strongmen in tears, had watched lifters crash to the floor under the barbell, had heard caveman howls and primal screams.
Now all that macho breast-beating would reach a climax, with 150kg-contenders trying to snatch more than 200kg. What I did not expect to see in that testosterone-filled competition hall was a moment of heart-breaking tenderness.
I had heard the story of 25-year-old German lifter Matthias Steiner, whose wife, Susann, died after a car crash last year, and my heart went out to him as I watched him fail not just one but two attempts.
When super-heavyweight lifter Matthias Steiner won his first Olympic gold medal, he kissed a photo of the woman he had buried in her wedding dress last year.
The hulking German’s tale of love and loss has moved millions of viewers around the world, and the image of Steiner holding up the photo of Susann, who died after a car crash, was splashed across German websites on Wednesday.
Russell Boyce writes: The men’s +105kg weightlifting produced grunts and groans, strains and shouts as men lifted weights up to 258kg.
It also produced an amazing series of portraits as these heavyweight giants battled it out for the gold medal, ferocious and hard faced giants every one of them, or at least so it seemed.
If you’re in any way squeamish, look away before you’ve spotted what is wrong!
Russell Boyce writes: Officials gather round a young man who has a distressed look in his face. Parental looking figures try to help. What is the matter, the mind asks? The eye is drawn from the distressed face to the hand that is being held … no, that looks OK. Then the eye is led along to the elbow. Oh no … elbows shouldn’t bend that way!
Rickey Rogers writes: Alessandro Bianchi created this wonderful image as he searched for a new angle from which to photograph the second day of the fencing competition.
Sports like fencing, boxing and judo are very repetitive for a photographer, and it takes a curious eye to find new angles. The picture is aesthetically pleasing with enough movement to give the reader an idea of what the sport is about, and its multi-layered composition invokes mystery.
Weightlifting is not the most glamorous Olympic sport. Forget about glitzy endorsement deals, tabloid tell-alls and magazine shoots. This is a world where taciturn men from Belarus and compact women from China win their gold medals in relative obscurity.
But for 67 minutes on Saturday morning, weightlifting had its place in the limelight.
For Italian weightlifter Giorgio de Luca, for example, doping is out of the question but coffee, cigarettes, and the occasional drink are all fine.
Asian negotiation techniques have brought Westerners to their knees ever since Taoist sage Laozi said that soft and fluid water wears away the hardest rock. The deadliest weapon in the boardrooms of companies from Tokyo to Beijing: a long, inscrutable silence.
So who wins in a stand-off between Chinese Olympic volunteers (“nothing is as soft and yielding as water, and yet it conquers that which is hard and unyielding” – Laozi) and Japanese reporters (“my heart burns like fire but my eyes are as cold as dead ashes” – Zen monk Soyen Shaku)?
With her massive shoulders and bulging biceps and thighs, the petite blonde usually weighs in at 55kg, a tad too heavy for the 53kg category she’ll be competing in on Sunday. Not that she’ll be going hungry.